My Advice to My Younger Writer Self: Be Humble

typewriter
Creative commons photo.

I have the opportunity here where I could do a two-word blog post based on this Tweet “prompt” I saw today, but I once I get rolling, I’ll probably break that promise. Alas, here’s the Tweet:

The two words?

Be humble.

In a different context, I was thinking recently about how from an early age, I would tell anyone who would listen that before I turned 18, I would write my first book. If I had to guess, I started saying that when I was in middle school.

I did try when I was around 15. I had a story, started writing it, and probably had a few thousand words at one point. Nothing close to an actual book or even a novella. I’m sure, if I searched hard enough, I could probably find it, but off-hand, I’m not sure I have a copy of it anymore.

But if I could read that copy, I’m sure I would cringe.

The arrogance! To think I could write a book before turning 18. Yes, I know there are some young protégés out there who have written noted books before their 18th birthday (or even a few years after — doing it in your early 20s is still impressive).

What fed that arrogance at that early age was thinking I had nothing to learn from others about writing. I had this notion that writing was something you either could do or could not do, and nothing a teacher or someone else could tell me about writing would add to that innate ability.

In the 15 years since, I’ve grown a lot and so has my attitude about writing. Fortunately, I’ve also grown a lot as a writer, and yes, indeed, I’ve learned a lot from teachers, peers and other writers about writing. I would feel far more comfortable trying to write a book now at almost 30 than I would have at 15. I feel better equipped now precisely because I grew more humble and open to listening.

I would chalk up that 15-year-old enthusiasm and arrogance to the typical teenager mindset. I’m glad I grew out of that. I’m glad I learned. I’m glad I did listen. So many people along the way have made me a better write both professionally in my career (which I’ve previously written about) and in the creative non-fiction and fiction worlds.

So yeah, if I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would tell him to be humble, be open and be listening. Because you don’t know everything and you’re not ready.

Oh, and as a sidebar, I would probably tell him to more strongly continue that passion to write a book (even if it was first born of some arrogance) in his 20s instead of setting it aside as a pipe dream that maybe, some day, he would return to.

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